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Sunday, October 24, 2010

Army, villagers clash over land, 50 injured

Courtesy: New Age, Dhaka, main page, Oct 24, 2010

FM Masum . Roopganj

At least 50 people sustained bullet wounds as villagers protesting at being forced to sell their lands for an army housing project in the area, clashed with security forces at Roopganj all day Saturday.

Eight people were admitted to Roopganj upazila health complex, seven brought to Dhaka Medical College Hospital while the rest were taken to Shahbazpur government hospital and different clinics in Gausia.

Doctors at the DMCH said the condition of two hit by bullets in their legs was critical.

The angry villagers attacked the army camps, set a jeep on fire and damaged two others during the clash, witnesses said. Narayanganj police super Biswas Afzal Hossain told New Age last night that the situation calmed after the army had withdrawn the camps.

The protesters put barricades on the roads by felling trees and setting spent tyres on fire at different places in Roopganj.

Witnesses said the clashes broke out at around 9:30am when villagers were holding a rally in front of Tanmosori army camp demanding withdrawal of the four camps set up by the army at Nawara, Purbagram, Baraichhari and Tanmosori villages and cancellation of the housing project adjacent to RAJUK’s Purbachal project.

Locals alleged that the army was forcing villagers to sell their lands at prices much lower than their actual prices.

The villagers attacked the camps after the army personnel called some villagers on the plea of a negotiated settlement of the issue and allegedly shot them inside the Tanmosori camp at around 10:00am, witnesses said.

Large number of RAB and police personnel cordoned the army camp at Tanmosori, but villagers regrouped and attacked the camp again in the afternoon and rescued a boy detained there at around 3:45pm, witnesses said.

The boy, Mohammad Sagar, his clothing completely stained with blood, told New Age that he had seen two dead bodies inside a room of the camp, but police did not confirm any death.

The premises of Kachari government primary school, adjacent to the Tanmosori army camp, had blood stains all around, witnesses said.

‘I went to the army camp along with 30 villagers at around 12:30pm as they had called us to discuss the issue After taking us inside the camp, the army men had shot many of us. You see there are blood stains on my shirts and trousers.’ Sagar said.

Local Awami League leader Shamim Osman visited the army camp at around 3:30pm. He told New Age that nobody was killed in firing.

Commanding officer of the Rapid Action Battalion-11, lieutenant colonel Mohammad Ahsan said that the army had fired in the air to scare away the villagers attacking the camps ‘without provocation’ in the morning. RAB and police rushed to the spot and fired some shots to disperse the villagers, he said.

Amid continued protest, the army authorities withdrew the camps and airlifted the troops by helicopters, witnesses said.

The RAB commanding officer, however, alleged that a vested quarter had incited the villagers into attacking the army camps.

The battalion official said five RAB personnel, including an ASP of RAB-1, were injured in the attack by the angry villagers. When approached, Tanmosori army camp commander captain Zahid declined comments on the incident.

Another army personnel of the camp who did not want to be named said three of his colleagues, including a warrant officer, were also injured when the villagers swarmed the camp.

Shahidullah, a resident of Talashpur, who witnessed the incident, told New Age that local lawmaker Gazi Golam Dastagir was responsible for the incident as he had not taken any steps in time to resolve the dispute that arose over the army housing project.

He said that Bablu and Shafique of Nawrapra, Alamgir and Rana of Talashpur, Hanif, Jamal and Abul of Ichakhali had sustained bullet injuries when the army personnel opened fire on the villagers ‘indiscriminately’.

DMCH sources identified the persons admitted with bullet injuries from Roopganj as Yaroz Khan, 60, Mohammad Zaman 28, Noor Alam Sarkar , 40, Alam 36, Mohammad Ayub Hossain, 24, Maqbul 34, and Anwar Hossain, 22.

Soon after the army left the camps at around 4:00pm, the villagers set the camps ablaze and took away furniture and tin sheets, witnesses and police said.

Mohammad Zaman, a farmer who was undergoing treatment in DMCH with bullet wounds, said some of his fellow villagers were admitted to clinics in Gausia and Shabazpur.

‘The price of a bigha of land is around Tk 35-40 lakh in Roopganj at present. But the army personnel were offering us only Tk 15 lakh,’ said a villager Nur Muhammad.

‘It is our land, but we are not allowed to hand over our inherited property even to our relatives,’ he said.

Mashiur Rahman, a local leader of Awami League, alleged that some local leaders, including Jayed Ali, Mohammad Rafiq and Roopganj union parishad chairman Abu Hossain Ranu were responsible for the incident.

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